The 21st annual California Middle School Spelling Bee on Feb. 9 went 12 rounds before sixth-grader Hillary Roney won with the word "exasperation."
The patient, methodical speller had a tight race with sixth-grader Isabelle Rohrbach, who misspelled "barrette" in the final round.
Third place went to seventh-grader Kaitlyn Schlup, who made it to the sixth round before misspelling "bulletin."
After that, Roney and Rohrbach passed three rounds with perfect spelling. And in Round 10, they both misspelled their words — "callous" and "Chesapeake," respectively.
"These were difficult," said librarian Jill Meisenheimer, who emceed the event. "You guys totally out did yourselves."
Marcia Bibb, Mona Spayde, and Krista Davis served as judges. And, Nancy Lewis, former middle school librarian, was moderator. In 1998, Lewis began the spelling bee tradition.
"I was so pleased to come back one more time for the spelling bee," she said.
All middle school students participated in a classroom bee in their English classes. The top three spellers from each class participated in a grade-level bee to decide the top five from each grade to compete at the school-wide bee.
Eighth grader Jose Magana made it to the fifth round, when he misspelled "hoarsely," and seventh grader Lydia Banderman missed "opponent." Seventh grader Kyla Combs left in the fourth round, after misspelling "sparsely" and seventh grader Trevor Peacher missed "altitude."
In the third round, eighth-grader Zach Gabert missed "valuables" and sixth-grader Will Boyd missed "energetic." Sixth-grader Austin Suen and seventh-grader Gabby Rohrbach went out in the second round for misspelling "protested" and "engraved," respectively. Eighth grader Noah Sweeney missed "horrid" in the first round.
Sixth-grader Eliza Fortner and eighth-grader Molly Hentges both were absent for the school-wide bee and eighth-grader Jordan Dixon no longer lives in the district.
Roney, Rohrbach and Schlup all had been studying regularly at home with family in preparation for the bee, affiliated with the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Participants were given lists to study at each level of competition.
"Practice pays off," Rohrbach said.
Roney said she realized that taking one's time is worth it in the end.
"I wouldn't have got some of them right, if I did not take my time," she said.
And Schlup said the experience has motivated her to come back next year.
The top three spellers agreed the best part of the bee was receiving praise from their fellow students.
Roney will represent the school at the Regional Scripps Spelling Bee March13 in Columbia.
"I'm excited about today," Roney said. "But, since I made it, I need to study for that."